Jump to content
Whatbird Community

Recommended Posts

I was birding in southwestern OR yesterday at fun mountain lake that I try to visit every year. It's loaded with birds that are relatively hard to find locally like Canada Jays, White-Headed Woodpeckers, & Green-tailed Towhees, and once in a while we'll get a rare bird from eastern OR up there because the habitat is vaguely similar. Anyway, I found a pair of empids up there that, in the field, I decided were Dusky Flycatcher (as opposed to Hammond's or any of the other expected western OR flycatchers). But now that I'm looking at the photos, I don't think that's right. The bill seems too yellow, and the bird has a bit of a "vest" on the breast. I'm wondering if it is a Gray Flycatcher. Normally I look for downward tail-wagging to solidify my ID of Grays, but these birds were not doing a tail dip. So, they have to be identified the hard way...

Anyone else able to weigh in on these little guys?

_M6A0148.jpg

_M6A0162.jpg

_M6A0156.jpg

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Habitat alone should help rule this bird out as a GRFL during the breeding season. Dusky and Gray are very similar (and can have small overlap in breeding habitat), but during the breeding season Gray Flycatchers are generally birds of the Great Basin, and are typically found in dry areas of mixed conifer, open pinyon-juniper and big sagebrush habitats. In Oregon in particular, GRFL are abundant where western juniper has invaded former sagebrush shrub-steppe (BOW). Based on the photos, this is not juniper habitat.

Dusky, on the other hand, breed in varied habitat but areas that are less dry, such as aspen groves, willow thickets, open coniferous forest and mountain chaparral. In California, mixed coniferous forest with a chaparral understory and found in pine forests with relatively dense understory of conifer seedlings (BOW).

13 minutes ago, Aidan B said:

Dusky IMO. Those bills are much too dainty for Gray. 

I also agree with this.

  • Like 2
  • Thanks 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

27 minutes ago, DLecy said:

Habitat alone should help rule this bird out as a GRFL during the breeding season. Dusky and Gray are very similar (and can have small overlap in breeding habitat), but during the breeding season Gray Flycatchers are generally birds of the Great Basin, and are typically found in dry areas of mixed conifer, open pinyon-juniper and big sagebrush habitats. In Oregon in particular, GRFL are abundant where western juniper has invaded former sagebrush shrub-steppe (BOW). Based on the photos, this is not juniper habitat.

Dusky, on the other hand, breed in varied habitat but areas that are less dry, such as aspen groves, willow thickets, open coniferous forest and mountain chaparral. In California, mixed coniferous forest with a chaparral understory and found in pine forests with relatively dense understory of conifer seedlings (BOW).

I also agree with this.

I agree that habitat and breeding range point away from Gray, but as I mentioned the unique habitat of this site has led eastern OR species to appear there. It's very open and scrubby, and I have documented Gray Flycatchers at this site in June/July in both 2019 and 2020 (for example, https://ebird.org/checklist/S70910898 ). So while the site is in western OR where Gray is not expected, we have had individuals singing at this site for 2 of the last 3 breeding seasons. Probably due to increasing drought conditions in the Klamath basin, we had several pairs of Gray Flycatchers that breed here in the Rogue Valley last year, in atypical habitat. So, all that is to say season and habitat would not entirely preclude Gray.

The bill is short, and that was part of my initial reason for thinking Dusky. Is it too short for a Gray? I haven't seen many Grays, and I'm used to identifying them by call rather than structure; but at least compared to most Duskies I've seen, this seems like a lot of yellow on the bill. And again, there's that vest-like pattern to the breast. I can't quite tell from my shots whether there is yellow on the belly, but the overall pattern is interesting. I just don't have enough experience with Gray to know what is normal variation for that species. Hammonds and Duskies are enough to challenge me, without throughing Gray into the mix!

Thanks again for the thoughts so far!

(Just for comparison, here is a photo of a Gray Flycatcher at this same site on July 16 of 2020. This one was an easy ID due to tail-wagging and calls.)

246197221.jpg

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

1 hour ago, simonthetanner said:

(Just for comparison, here is a photo of a Gray Flycatcher at this same site on July 16 of 2020. This one was an easy ID due to tail-wagging and calls.)

246197221.jpg

Correction: the date for this photo was June 27, 2020.

Anyway, after looking through more Dusky Flycatcher photos I see that a fair few do have distinct yellow on the lower mandible — some even looking yellow with a black tip, like a textbook Gray. So the bill coloration of my original flycatchers is within normal for Dusky. But maybe it's best to simply leave them as "Empidonax sp." rather than trying to identify them to the species level.

  • Like 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

On 6/17/2022 at 6:14 PM, Aidan B said:

Dusky IMO. Those bills are much too dainty for Gray. 

 

23 hours ago, DLecy said:

Habitat alone should help rule this bird out as a GRFL during the breeding season. Dusky and Gray are very similar (and can have small overlap in breeding habitat), but during the breeding season Gray Flycatchers are generally birds of the Great Basin, and are typically found in dry areas of mixed conifer, open pinyon-juniper and big sagebrush habitats. In Oregon in particular, GRFL are abundant where western juniper has invaded former sagebrush shrub-steppe (BOW). Based on the photos, this is not juniper habitat.

Dusky, on the other hand, breed in varied habitat but areas that are less dry, such as aspen groves, willow thickets, open coniferous forest and mountain chaparral. In California, mixed coniferous forest with a chaparral understory and found in pine forests with relatively dense understory of conifer seedlings (BOW).

I also agree with this.

Why not Hammond’s?

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

 Share

×
×
  • Create New...